Texas capitol building. SCOPE Act.

How the SCOPE Act Requires Texas School Districts to Take Action

On June 13, 2023, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Texas House Bill No. 18, the Securing Children Online through Parental Empowerment Act, more familiarly known as the SCOPE Act. The SCOPE Act requires covered digital service providers to provide minors with certain data protections, prevent minors from accessing harmful content, and give parents tools to manage their child’s use of the service.

The SCOPE Act is highly relevant to Texas school districts. The new law specifically relates to protecting minors from harmful, deceptive, or unfair trade practices in connection with the use of certain digital services and electronic devices, including the use and transfer of electronic devices to students by a public school.

Article III of the SCOPE Act took immediate effect and was required for the 2023-24 school year. If this is news to you, please refer to the post “What Texas School Districts Need to Know About the SCOPE Act (Texas House Bill No. 18)” on the Lightspeed Systems Edtech Blog where we walk you through exactly what was needed to be accomplished for this school year. Additionally, Lightspeed Systems prepared the guide, School District Compliance Guide: SCOPE Act (Texas HB No. 18).

Now, if you did hit all the requirements for the 2023-24 school year, now is no time to rest on your laurels. Note that Articles I, II, and IV of the SCOPE Act go into full effect on September 1, 2024.

Students around a table, all using electronic devices. SCOPE Act.

Remainder of the SCOPE Act to go Into Effect on September 1, 2024

Article II of the SCOPE Act creates Business and Commerce Code, Chapter 509, titled “Use of Digital Services by Minors.” It provides multiple definitions and specifies the new duties and prohibitions that apply to digital service providers, and what providers these new duties and prohibitions do not apply to. Subchapter C of the Business and Commerce Code, Chapter 509, also addresses the powers of verified parents regarding their minor children’s use of digital services.

This chapter outlines “personal identifying information,” as well as defines a “verified parent.” It also excludes “an operator or provider regulated by Subchapter D, Chapter 32, Education Code, that primarily provides education services to students or educational institutions.”

Article III of the SCOPE Act amends several sections of Texas Education Code 32 by providing definitions of relevant terms and directs the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to adopt standards for permissible electronic devices and software applications used by school districts and open-enrollment charter schools. Additionally, Texas Education Code 32.104 was amended to expand the requirements school districts and open-enrollment charter schools must follow before transferring data processing equipment or an electronic device to students.

Article IV of the SCOPE Act requires a joint legislature committee to study the effects of media on minors. While not a responsibility of schools, this study will likely have an impact on digital learning. The Act specifies the joint committee will examine the health and developmental effects of media on minors. Additionally, it will study the effects of exposure by a minor to various forms of media, including social media platforms, software applications, websites, television programming, and movies.

Additionally, the Article IV study requires an examination of the impact of artificial intelligence (AI), mobile devices, computers, video games, virtual and augmented reality, and any other media formats the joint committee considers necessary.

Compliance with Article III of the SCOPE Act is Past Due!

Artice III of the SCOPE Act covers a wide range of accountabilities for Texas educational agencies — see page 13, line 20 through page 17, line 7 of the entire bill. Specifically, the bill calls out the following responsibilities:

  1. Minimize data collection conducted on students through electronic devices and software applications;
  2. Ensure direct and informed parental consent is required for a student ’s use of a software application (with two qualified exceptions);
  3. Ensure software applications do not conduct mental health assessments or other assessments unrelated to educational curricula that are intended to collect information about students without direct and informed parental consent;
  4. Ensure that parents are provided the resources necessary to understand cybersecurity risks and online safety regarding their child ’s use of electronic devices;
  5. Specify periods of time during which an electronic device transferred to a student must be deactivated in the interest of student safety;
  6. Consider necessary adjustments by age level to the use of electronic devices in the classroom;
  7. Consider appropriate restrictions on student access to social media websites or applications;
  8. Determine, before using a social media application for an educational purpose, if an alternative application is more secure and provides the same educational functionality;
  9. Consider the required use of an Internet filter capable of notifying appropriate school administrators, who are then required to notify the student ’s parent, if a student accesses inappropriate or concerning content or words, including content related self-harm, suicide, violence to other, or drugs;
  10. Assign to the appropriate officer of a district or school the duty to receive complaints or concerns regarding student use of electronic devices;
  11. Provide methods by which a district or school may ensure an operator is in compliance;
  12. Remove from equipment any offensive, confidential, or proprietary information;
  13. Adopt rules establishing programs promoting parents as partners in cybersecurity and online safety;
  14. Install an Internet filter that blocks and prohibits pornographic or obscene materials or applications.

The new legislation covers student data protection, harmful content, parental tools and more. Full compliance requires multiple EdTech tools, and goes well beyond the capabilities of school web content filters that have been deployed to be in compliance with the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

Complying with the Entire SCOPE Act

Customers of Lightspeed Systems can be in compliance with the SCOPE Act with out-of-the-box deployment of Lightspeed Filter™, Lightspeed Alert™, and Lightspeed Digital Insight™. Customers should contact their Lightspeed Systems Client Success Manager with any questions or concerns.

As a resource for Texas school districts, Lightspeed Systems has created the short guide, School District Resource Guide to Comply with Texas’ SCOPE Act (Texas HB No. 18). Download your copy today.